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Say Yes

If you’ve ever taken an improv class, you’ve heard the rule, “Say Yes.” If your partner says, “Man, it sure is cold up here on the moon,” you don’t say, “No, no, this is the old west.” You’d be surprised how many people want to do this.

PAs have a similar rule, or at least a similar attitude. If someone asks you to do something, you say yes. It doesn’t matter who they are, or that it’s not really your job, you just do it.

The on-set dresser is moving furniture? Lift the other end of the couch. The location manager needs to copy some maps? Take the originals and run the copies yourself. The set PA needs signs saying, “Base Camp This Way–>”? Fire up the computer and make it happen.

You’re a PA; you say yes.

The problem is, this can quickly turn into abuse. One day, you ask the post PA if she wants you to pick up something from the studio, since you’re going anyway. The next day, the post coordinator calls you up and tells you he needs you to deliver dailies to seven executives, and a couple of producers along the way.

Wardrobe, casting, hair, and make-up all love to find things for other departments to do for them. If you’re not careful, you’ll find you don’t have time to do your own job.

What you need is a coordinator or AD who will protect you. You can’t say no, but they can.
They can say, “You’ve got your own PA/intern.”

Of course, sometimes this is just like your older brother defending you from a bully– “No one gets to beat up my little brother but me.” Still, the devil you know…

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13 Responses

  1. this is my favorite blog on the web, what happened to it? I hope it’s just a vacation or something.

  2. If you are on a commercial though anything goes. Often the PA’s are carrying lighting and grip gear. Helping the art department set up and even running the smoke machines. I’ve worked in the lighting department and been assigned PA’s for the day. I guess that isn’t the same as your issue but it certainly makes for a a more varied work day.

  3. I suppose I was brought up in a world where every department is extremely protective of their own. The rules I learned included that any fuckup by the department was, at least publicly, the department head’s fuckup. (You are permitted to kill the actual miscreant in private.)

    So the idea that nobody would dare try running another department’s staff is pretty ingrained. Your direct boss might not have explicitly stated that you’re his/hers to direct, but I bet he/she’d be a willing conspirator if you make them aware of someone who has decided you work for them.

    It’s not just territorial though. I give my PA an assignment and I don’t say, “Come right back when you’re done.” It goes without saying. The problem is–if my PA accepts an assignment from someone else without my knowledge, I’m going to be wondering where the hell he is while I’ve got something else for him to do.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly but isn’t that what life on the set is like? If you are known as the “yes” person than people are always asking you to do stuff – even their ‘stuff”. I’m a firm believer in setting strict boundaries.

  5. I agree, that’s great help for your PAs.

    The thing is, it has to be explicitly stated, otherwise it’s tough for a PA to do that. This is especially true for production PAs; remember, your PAs are there for locations, but production is there to help everyone.

  6. Ah, but this is where the chain of command comes into play. It may sound harsh, but one of the first instructions I give any PA working for me is that they have no authority whatsoever. And that includes (most especially) the authority to decide that they can take direction from anyone outside of the Locations Dept.

    There is only one answer permissible when a make-up artist, camera assistant, grip or producer asks one of my PA’s to do something: “Sure, let me just clear it with my boss”.

    I also tell my new PA’s that if they can’t follow that one rule, it’s a pretty clear indication that they’d rather be working in another department…and I’ll be happy to make them available.

    Like I said, it may sound harsh, but it’s a PA’s best protection against being abused. (I’m presuming the POC would happily participate in not letting anyone else monopolize your time and efforts.)

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